The Coffee Board is planning to launch a sustainability code for Indian coffee, which will help growers share the sustainability story with customers overseas.

Coffee Board Secretary and CEO, K G Jagadeesha said the Board is working towards developing such a code, which is likely to be launched over the next six months to an year.

“It will be free of cost and any farmer enrolling into the programme and complying with the norms can use the logo and code on their coffee bags to convey the sustainability story,” he said.

Lack of distinction

Jagadeesha said while there are a lot of certifications available such as Rainforest and FairTrade among others, they are considered to be expensive for Indian growers.

“For the payment made to these certifications, farmers will expect returns, which is not happening. Some of them are difficult to comply with as they have fixed criteria all over the world. These certificates don’t recognise the uniqueness of Indian coffee. They give the same certification to Brazil where the forest is cleared and coffee cultivated in the open. They don’t give any distinction for the Indian coffee,” he said.

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“We grow coffee under the thick shade of trees and the whole biodiversity of the western and eastern ghats is sustained by the coffee. We don’t use as much fertilisers as others do. They don’t look at the sustainability aspect of Indian coffee and that’s the limitation of the private codes. Whenever we present to the foreign delegations that Indian coffee stands for these distinct parameters, they say that when your coffees come, the bags don’t speak the story. They say that while you have a better story than anybody else, but the bags merely say that its coffee from India.”

Portraying best pratices

“So we thought of developing a code that portrays the best practices we have—the sustainable environment friendly cultivation and incorporate the best practices from all the other codes, so that it becomes acceptable. We will implement this through our extension officers.

“It is not mandatory for the farmers. However, it is zero cost. When they make an application, we will enrol them for the programme and help them gradually to become compliant with the code,” he said.

“Certification is not for extra income, but all about conveying our story and selling it in the international market. As a result, the perception about Indian coffee will become good and we may start getting better prices,” Jagadeesha added.

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A grower complying with practices can display the logo and the code on the coffee bags. Any person scanning the logo can access the details of all the good agricultural practices followed by the individual grower in that particular estate and the curer. “We will popularise the code across all global events,” he said.

Sustainable practices

“About 90 per cent of the practices followed by the Indian growers are sustainable, but we are not selling the story. We want to ensure that farmers are fully compliant and take the code global. Moreover, the code will be free for farmers, non-competitive and bringing everybody under one umbrella,” Jagadeesha said.

Coffee Board has already started the work and expects to launch the code within a stipulated time.

“We have prepared a draft with in-house expertise and are in touch with international agencies which specialise in developing such code. We are working aggressively towards it.

“Once the programme is developed, we will have consultation with growers and make them compliant. Every person complying to the programme can use the logo.” he said.

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